Boris Johnson remains in St Thomas’ hospital today following his admission yesterday. The Prime Minister had been admitted for tests after continuing to display symptoms of Covid-19 ten days after his diagnosis. He continues to lead the Government from his hospital bed, with the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, chairing today’s cabinet coronavirus meeting.
Following Sir Keir Starmer’s election as the leader of the Labour Party, he has assembled his Shadow Cabinet which includes his two leadership rivals, Rebecca Long-Bailey and Lisa Nandy, in the positions of Shadow Education Secretary and Shadow Foreign Secretary respectively.
The former Shadow Education Secretary, Angela Rayner, was also elected by party members to be the new Deputy Leader and appointed by Starmer to be the new Chair of the Labour Party.
Further significant appointments to Starmer’s frontbench team include Anneliese Dodds as Shadow Chancellor, Ed Miliband as Shadow Business Secretary, Rachel Reeves as Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Nick Thomas-Symonds as Shadow Home Secretary. Jon Ashworth remains as Shadow Health Secretary. A more extensive list of Shadow Cabinet appointees can be found here.
Today’s coronavirus press conference followed Matt Hancock’s statement yesterday in which he warned people not to flout the coronavirus rules despite the warm weather, otherwise “we might have to take further action”. The press conference today was led by Dominic Raab, who emphasised the Foreign Office’s actions in repatriating British citizens abroad.
See below for our summary of today’s coronavirus press conference and other significant developments.
Coronavirus Press Conference
Dominic Raab, Foreign Secretary
- 208,837 people have now been tested for coronavirus.
- 17,911 people have been admitted to hospital for coronavirus.
- 5,373 people have now died from coronavirus.
- The Prime Minister it still in hospital under observation and continues to lead the Government.
- The Foreign Office (FCO) is prioritising the most vulnerable citizens abroad and working with airlines to bring more home. Everything is being done to keep commercial flights going and flights will be chartered where no commercial flights are available. This programme has received £75m worth of funding for this
- The FCO is also helping to source ventilators from around the world.
Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer
- We need to be confident we’re at the peak before relaxing restrictions. We do not know for certain that the peak will be at the end of the week.
- Has confidence that antibody tests will be ready soon. They are most useful at the latter stages of an epidemic.
Professor Angela McClean, Deputy Chief Scientific Officer
- It’s too soon to see the effects of the changes to our lives.
- Rail usage has fallen to below 20% of February’s figures. Tube travel has also fallen significantly.
- The growth of people in hospitals is not as bad as if we had not taken the social distancing measures two weeks ago.
- Testing. The Government has published their strategy for scaling up testing programmes in order to provide a test to anyone who needs one. The publication comes after it was announced that the Government aims to carry out 100,000 coronavirus tests per day by the end of April.
- The Guardian has reported that the Government is hoping to transition out of lockdown, when times comes, through controversial “immunity passports” and antibody tests that have not yet been proved to be effective. Such proposals have received criticism from medical professionals since the antibody tests are not appropriate to be used by the general public and none have been endorsed by Public Health England.
- The Times reports that the Government has purchased millions of antibody tests from China, none of which are “good enough” to use. Professor John Newton said that the tests were able to identify immunity accurately only in people who had been severely ill. Instead Government scientists hope to work with companies to improve the performance of antibody tests and Professor Newton said he was “optimistic” they would succeed within months.
- Repatriating citizens. The Foreign Office has outlined the ways that they are bringing home travellers stranded abroad by coronavirus, with 10 more airlines joining their repatriation scheme to keep commercial routes open.
- Travel. Members of the public have now been warned not to embark on any non-essential travel “indefinitely”. Previously the travel advice had been in place until April 16th, but the guidance has now been extended with no end date included.
- No-interest loan scheme. The Guardian has reported that the Government has committed to piloting no-interest loans for people on low incomes, however they are resisting calls for this support to be accelerated to tackle the coronavirus recession.
- Rescue package for start-up industry. The Financial Times has reported that start-up companies are set to receive financial support from the Government. Some start-ups, especially the newest companies, are lossmaking and ineligible for the new government-backed loan scheme for small businesses. The Government are considering offering convertible loans which could be repaid by the business after the crisis or turned into state owned equity stakes.
- Russian disinformation. Downing Street has responded to a state-run Russian news agency claiming that Boris Johnson would soon need to be put on a coronavirus ventilator by calling it “disinformation”. RIA-Nosvoti, the Russian agency, reported their source as being a one “close to the leadership” of the NHS.